In high school, Lauren Potter wanted to be a cheerleader. "I didn't make it. And I was so sad. Then I got on Glee. And guess what? I was a cheerleader on TV!" she says with an infectious laugh.
Potter will be coming to Houston Friday to be honored by Theatre Under the Stars' The River program for her work as an actress and as an anti-bullying advocate. She has spoken out several times recently urging people not to use the words "retard" or "retarded."
"I think there are better words to use that don't hurt people," she told Art Attack. "I don't think most people are trying to be mean. They just have that habit of saying that word, but words can hurt. I think it is better to use words that don't hurt other people."
Potter will receive the Sammy Award named after the daughter (Samantha) of The River's founders Cathy and Bob Binstock.
"The River was founded in 1996 by the Binstock family because their younger daughter wanted to take a dance class and they couldn't find any place that would take her," says Bob Lawson, director of education at TUTS. "It provides a performing arts curriculum for individuals with disabilities. What we've tried to do is to use movement, acting and song to engage them in a way they wouldn't otherwise be engaged."
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The River and TUTS had worked together in outreach programs and then four years ago decided to merge operations, Lawson says. The River runs Saturday morning programs through the fall and spring with 62 students per semester, as well as a full summer camp program for six weeks that can have 300 or more kids there, Lawson says.
Potter says she likes all the cast and crew at Glee, but especially actress Jane Lynch "because she is so funny and nice." Appointed by President Obama to the President's Committee for People With Intellectual Disabilities, she hopes to continue her acting career even if Glee ends and wouldn't mind doing a commercial.
She also applauded The River's program. "They like kids to think big and I'm all for that."
Friday's event entitled "Dream Out Loud" is the annual gala held to raise funds for The River. The Junior League of Houston, 1811 Briar Oaks Lane. For ticket information call Ashly Alberto at 713-558-2656 or Ashly@TUTS.com. $250.